Norman Rockwell seemed to be recalling a disturbing memory from his childhood when he painted the “Marriage Counselor.” Rockwell and his fellow friends were playing in a vacant lot and witnessed a drunken woman in filthy rags, cursing and beating a man with an umbrella, according to author Richard Halpern, in Norman Rockwell, The Underside of Innocence. A policeman showed up and tried to stop the woman, but the drunken, swearing man, stumbled as he attacked the officer who was there to help him. “The beating or humiliation of men by women provides an occasional comic motif in Rockwell’s work,” Halpern states.
Fortunately, in the 1960s the problems of domestic abuse started to get the attention of the media and by the 1980s most states had adopted legislation regarding domestic violence, according to Violence Against Women 1994. But we still have a long way to go—there are only 1,500 shelters for abused women while we have 3,800 shelters for animals in the United States! Economist Allison Schrager wrote about puppies vs. people in More Intelligent Life, as reported by Jezebel.com in June 2008 but today these numbers remain the same.
Current Statistics—Early Warning Signs
The current statistics according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say that 40 million adult Americans grew up living with domestic violence. Domestic violence can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in children and the effects on their brain are similar to those experienced by combat veterans! The rate of suicide and drug use has exploded in this country and it should be no surprise when you consider that children who grew up with domestic violence in the home are 6 times more likely to commit suicide and 50% more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
One way to change these horrific statistics would be to teach teenagers the warning signs of an abusive personality and how to watch for them in the early stages of their relationships.
· They blame others for their negative behavior, playing the, “blame game”. They may say things to manipulate you into believing all they really need is your understanding and love. Saying things like, “You are so easy to be around—my last girlfriend was so negative.” They will turn the “Law of Blame” on the closest person.
· They are full of resentment and are insensitive to the rights of others; therefore, you become their target of resentment.
· They feel entitled—because they think their feelings are more important than yours.
· They believe themselves to be superior—that they are better than others—and they find many ways to point this out. They need to make others feel bad about themselves. They are insensitive and hostile, and they devalue people so they can manage the impression you have of them.
Trust your instincts—if you see signs of his anger when you’re dating, don’t think it’s an isolated incident. If they are violent once they’re likely to be violent again.
Author Cindy L. Smith details many of the early warning signs of an abusive personality in her novel, Whispered Truth. Denise, the main character, turns down Doyle’s advances while making dinner and she experiences his explosive anger when he goes to her closet and rips her night gown to shreds, explaining he was more important than dinner.
Reach Out Next Step, www.reachout.com, says abusers are super charming, especially around others, and if you have grown up with abuse it may be hard to recognize them. Abusers downplay abuse and they apologize, promising to change. Blaming yourself is very common— “I could make it better if I keep trying”—but the truth is others’ bad behavior is NEVER your fault. An abuser is full of putdowns and jealousy but there are always people who want to help and give you resources.
The following important questions will help you detect the very early warning signs of abuse.
· Can you disclose anything about yourself, including your deepest thoughts and feelings, without fearing rejection?
· Does your partner fully accept your thoughts and beliefs that differ from his?
· Does he respect and cherish you, despite your differences, without trying to change you?
Asking yourself these questions can help you to avoid abusive partners, but if you already find yourself in a domestic violence situation you can take the following steps to keep yourself safe.
· Have a place where you can go at a moment’s notice. Create a code word to share with family and friends that lets them know you’re in danger and agree on a secret location where they can pick you up.
· Keep a prepaid cellphone your partner doesn’t know about nearby. This way your partner can’t trace who you have called and find you. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cellphones. Memorize important numbers. If your partner took your phone, would you know the numbers of family and friends?
Identify important documents and hide them in a safe place with some money and an extra set of car keys. Make sure your bag is easily accessible. If you must leave immediately, leave without it, those items can always be replaced but you can’t.Family court or the local Domestic Violence Agency can give you information about getting a restraining order. They can also help you find a legal aid attorney or lawyer if you need legal advice. Use a computer at a public library to download information or use a friend’s computer or cellphone. Your partner might be able to track your planning otherwise.Keep any evidence of abuse or violence. This might include threatening notes from your partner. It might be copies of police and medical reports. It might include pictures of your injuries or damage to your property.Keep copies of all paper and electronic documents on an external thumb drive.
When we are young, we don’t grow up thinking, “I want to be abused by someone who is supposed to love me.” It happens slowly by a master manipulator who is charming and needs to control another person to make him or herself feel important. You can easily start to think you deserve this treatment and lose your way to the wonderful life you had planned for yourself. You have a right to love yourself and give yourself that wonderful life. Please seek help today if you are not safe. There are a lot of caring people waiting to give you support.
Advocates at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (link is external), 800-799-SAFE (7233), can help you develop your safety plan. The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence provides a form (link is external) (PDF, 193 KB) for developing your own safety plan. You can also find more tips on developing your safety plan (link is external). Every person deserves to be safe. Referenced from Office on Women’s Health, www.womenshealth.gov
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)|Marriage Counselor, 1963|Illustration intended for The Saturday Evening Post, c. 1963 but unpublished; offered to Ladies Home Journal, 1972, but unpublished|oil on canvas|Norman Rockwell Museum, NRACT.1973.111